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VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT

COLLECTION CONNECTION

LOCATION: 2399 E Busch Blvd., Tampa. (813) 933-7040.

A BRIEF HISTORY: Collection Connection thrift store was founded seven years ago by Tampa businessmen as a way to financially support two inner-city mission works: Christian Resource Center, which provides food, jobs, and educational opportunities to urban youth; and Prison Crusade Ministry, an outreach program providing job training and food distribution to prisoners and their families. Director of Christian Resource Center Herman Moten and CEO of Prison Crusade Ministries Abe Brown thought they were spending too much time raising funds and established the store to create a steady cash flow.

WHAT THE AGENCY DOES: As well as providing funds for Christian Resource Center and Prison Crusade Ministries, Collection Connection is a cooperative effort between 30-40 area churches. Churches refer those in need to the store, where they can pick up basic necessities, such as clothing and furniture, free of charge.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Ordained minister Larry Secrest, 52, was a missionary in Puerto Rico for eight years before coming to Collection Connection. He received his bachelor's in Christian missions, with a minor in history, from Bob Jones University, and his master's in religious education from Temple Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Bonnie and has two sons, Jeremy, 20, and Johnathan, 23. His salary is $35,000.

WHERE THE MONEY GOES: Besides funding Christian Resource Center and Prison Crusade Ministries, part of Collection Connection's $342,010 budget goes to paying the store's 10 employees and to paying off loans.

WHAT THE VOLUNTEERS DO: Collection Connection utilizes seven or eight volunteers daily. Volunteers assist the staff in customer service and in other ways around the store.

ONE VOLUNTEER: Thelma Drew, 78, has volunteered at Collection Connection for the past five years. She chose the store because they helped her church, Tampa Baptist_ "People would go in with vouchers with what they need," says Drew, "and they'd just give it to them." Drew also likes the fact that though Collection Connection is a Christian organization, "They help all religions."

_ MICHAEL PATRICK WELCH

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